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MANILA, Philippines —  Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi wants all power distributors to include in electricity bills information on deposits and interest earned as part of the agency’s thrust for transparency in the power sector.

The energy chief has asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to require all distribution utilities (DUs) and electric cooperatives (ECs) to inform their respective customers of their deposits through power bills.

“As part of transparency, part of making people informed of what they have and their rights are, we have instructed ERC to require all DUs, ECs to put a line (in electricity bills), how much is the deposit paid by the consumer,” Cusi said.


“Every month that you get your bill, you should know that you have a deposit and how much interest you have earned,” he added.

Currently, consumers have no means to track how much their deposit with DUs and ECs have earned since they became customers of a power distributor.

Moreover, customers do not have proof or a copy of their interest-earning deposits should they decide to refund from the power distributor’s service.

“Who has the burden of proof that you have a deposit and the amount of deposit you are entitled to? The burden of proof is with the consumer. You made your deposit and yet, when you have to get your deposit, the burden of proof is yours,” Cusi said.

“So what we want to do is there should be a line in electricity bills indicating the amount of deposit that should be interest earning,” he said.

In a separate interview, Visayan Electric Co. Inc. (VECO) president Jim Aboitiz said the directive is not a big deal for power distributors, especially those owned by private companies.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal for a utility group to do. It’s nothing special (since) that information already exists. I think it should only be harder for ECs to do because their computer systems are outdated. The better ones will have an easy time, the lousier ones will have a hard time. Like us, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) wouldn’t have a problem on that one,” he said.

While the details are not readily available, the DUs could provide the information should the customer ask about their deposits, said VECO chief operating officer Anton Mari Perdices.

“(They can) ask for a copy. DUs have those on record for sure,” he said.

Aboitiz also confirmed that the deposits are interest earning, based on rules of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, but the interest is not substantial.

“So, all utilities, the amount of security deposit they have, that they are holding on to date, will not cover their one month’s revenue,” Aboitiz said, noting the deposit is computed based on one month average bill.

There is also an ERC ruling that states customers cannot refund that deposit “unless you have never missed a payment on time for three years,” Aboitiz said.

“If you missed a payment on time, the cycle starts again for that three years,” he said.

Reference:

Rivera, D. (September 11, 2017). Cusi wants more transparent billing statements from power distributors. The Philippine Star. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/business/2017/09/11/1737727/cusi-wants-more-transparent-billing-statements-power-distributors

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